My guide to simple food photography

From a Florentine darkroom to a phone app!

Today, I thought I’d answer a question I get asked A LOT on social media — what do I use to shoot my photographs?

The truth is my love for photography began in a Florentine darkroom with a 1950s Pentax (no batteries needed!) and a roll of black and white film. I took a course on a whim — really, I was just trying to extend my Italian visa so that I could find out if the Tuscan boy behind the bar that I’d recently met was worth staying around for (turns out, he was)!

I loved capturing street photography and watching the magic unfold in the darkroom. I adored Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eugene Atget. I even taught darkroom photography for a year at a school in Florence. Then when I decided to start a food blog in 2010, I sold some prints to buy my first digital SLR camera and a 50mm lens and I had to teach myself everything from scratch and learn how to take food photos with a digital camera, which was honestly a whole different world (today I only use it for my blog and publications like my cookbooks, the above photos are some outtakes from my first cookbook, Florentine).

I still feel like I'm learning every day. But I can say that the fundamentals are the same and the way I approach even a photo snapped with my phone is similar to how I would with a manual film camera.

As photographer Chase Jarvis said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.”

And in this busy day and age that camera is inevitably my phone camera. The other reason I like using my phone camera for sharing photographs on social media is because it’s so quick! No editing/uploading/downloading. Remember when Instagram was literally about sharing an instant, that very instant? I have always liked that idea, like a journal entry of what you’re doing at that moment, and I still do usually post exactly what is happening that day.

It works for me because I’m rather lazy when it comes to editing, which I think is part of my darkroom background — I was taught to take the photograph perfectly, be my own lightmeter. The less you have to fiddle with in the darkroom, the better. When you’re taking photographs with film (expensive film, I will add), you are careful about getting that perfect shot and only taking the one you need. I try to do the same with my phone, even if I don’t need to. But getting everything right before you take the shot means that the post processing is incredibly simple. I use the VSCO app and I spend probably maximum 20 seconds editing a photo. Sometimes, there’s not even anything you need to do at all and that, to me, is a part of what makes a good photograph, along with telling a story.

So I have created a guide where I’m sharing my top tips for taking good photographs with your phone (or whatever camera you happen to have on you! I do not go into manual on this, I’ve focused on how to use your phone camera, but if this is something you are interested in, let me know, I could go into this too!). These are my tips for simple, unfussy, good food photography which I hope will inspire budding photographers and small business owners to try a few things that can improve your photography for social media and help you tell your story.

Download my free simple food photography guide here.

Next week I’ll be launching my paid subscription service — what does that mean? It just means that my regular free posts will go down to a biweekly schedule and I will be including some extra special content for paid subscribers only. It will cost 5 euro a month (50 euro annually), the cost of a glass of wine at our favourite wine bar in Florence! I will continue posting all the important things (especially news like workshop announcements and favourite recipes or experiences) in the regular posts, so do not worry about missing those things but for paid subscribers we will go deeper into certain topics, there will be Q&As and discussions, and some special content such as live chats and secret travel or food guides! It will be fun, and if you are considering become a subscriber, thank you in advance, your support will help me look further into this new project.

Coming up — shellfish!

I’ll be diving into the subject of the bivalve, discussing things like how choosing shellfish is an important, doable climate change action (potentially even more effective than becoming vegan), a guide to an unexpectedly favourite city in Puglia that happens to be one of the world’s best natural places to farm mussels and, naturally, some recipes, including a peek at my new Venetian cookbook, Cinnamon & Salt (out in April 2022) where you’ll find these delicious scallop cicchetti above! Finally, I’d love to hear from you if there is a topic you want to see me cover!

Until next week,

Emiko x